Michael Oster, President, has a background in real estate and economics. He is interested in creating economic opportunities for refugees through innovative, community-based businesses. His grandmother was a refugee who was resettled in America after World War II, and Iskashitaa’s mission has a special meaning for him. He is committed to building a welcoming and supportive environment for future generations.
Margaret Palmer, Secretary, is a leader in social services in the Tucson Community with 20 years of experience working with diverse populations. She earned her Master’s in Education with a focus on curriculum development as well as her Bachelors of Public Health with an emphasis in community health education. Additionally, she is certified in Parent Education, Mental Health First Aid and skilled at trauma-informed care and cultural responsiveness. She is actively involved in the Tucson Community as a director at a local nonprofit and member of multiple coalitions. Margaret has a proven record of accomplishment working with diverse populations including immigrants in culturally responsive ways. Margaret directed a refugee resettlement program for several years and that is when she first met Iskashitaa Refugee Network in action. She was struck by the multicultural sense of community on a citrus harvest and immediately saw the multiple benefits to refugees old and young, newer and more established, of participation in Iskashitaa programs. From there she made it a priority to build IRN programming into many refugee’s self-sufficiency plans, job readiness training and the elder program.
Shanna Benson, Treasurer, is a Tucson native and first became involved with Iskashitaa in the summer of 2006, when she joined Iskashitaa as a planning and marketing intern. She has extensive experience in general management, sales, and accounting/finance in the service sector in both Tucson, AZ and San Diego, CA. Shanna graduated with her MBA from the University of Arizona Eller College in 2007. She is the Business Manager at Thompson Law Group, P.C., a local law firm that specializes in serving as general counsel for small businesses and representing debtors in bankruptcy. Shanna is married and has two sons. She is honored to serve on Iskashitaa’s board as it demonstrates some of the values closest to her heart: cooperation, communication, understanding, and (training to promote) self-reliance.
Mathurin Maoundonodji, originally from Chad, Africa, has an Associate in Business Management from Pima Community College. Mathurin is currently assisting as an AVID Tutor at Catalina Magnet High School. After serving as an AmeriCorps member for three years, Mathurin came to Iskashitaa Refugee Network (IRN) with a deep appreciation of refugees’ challenges and the importance of community nonprofits. He is pursuing his BBA with an emphasis in global business from Northern State University. He volunteers on a weekly basis at IRN and is thrilled to launch on the Iskashitaa Board of Directors path to align with his academics and future endeavors to make the world a better place.
Tom Ball was immediately drawn to Iskashitaa Refugee Network after his first community harvest on 2011. As a pediatrician, his educational path included Johns Hopkins University, Tulane University, and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. He began his practice in Nogales as a member of The National Health Service Corps. Later, after practicing one year in Malawi, he completed his public health degree at the University of Arizona and ultimately joined their pediatric faculty practice, including serving as medical director of Casa de los Niños. He is committed to improving the social, emotional and physical health of our most vulnerable residents. As a board member, he would like all Southern Arizonans to experience the social, cross-cultural and agricultural enjoyment of an Iskashitaa harvest and related activities to encourage inclusion.
Joel Summer is a retired corporate and environmental lawyer, and former newspaper editor and publisher. Since retiring, Joel has done pro bono immigration law through the University of Arizona, James Rogers College of Law, representing Central American women who were subjected to physical abuse and gang violence. Joel also is a substitute teacher in the Tucson Unified School District, working with primary school children with diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Joel practiced law primarily in the Pacific Northwest. He was Vice President, General Counsel for Univar Corporation, the largest chemical distributor in the world. He also was a partner at K&L Gates and Miller Nash Graham Dunn. Joel retired from law practice and purchased a newspaper on the Southern Oregon Coast. He and his wife sold the business in 2012 and moved to Tucson.
Joel has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana; a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University College of Law, Chicago; a Certificate in Executive Management from the University of Washington, Seattle; and a Certificate in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Warner Institute, Creighton University College of Law, Omaha.
Joel is married to Rebecca Macko, a native Tucsonan and they have five adult children and two grandchildren.
Joel is passionate about assisting and advocating for Tucson’s refugee community and assisting asylum seekers coming to the United States to avoid domestic and gang violence and seeking a better life in America. He is particularly passionate about Iskashitaa’s mission by creating opportunities to integrate UN refugees into the Southern Arizona community while educating the public, strengthening the local food system, reducing local food waste, and increasing food security.
Patricia Raines Californian by birth and Tucsonan at heart, Patricia moved to her mother’s hometown of Tucson in 1995 and felt an immediate connection to her family roots in The Old Pueblo. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Patricia worked at Intuit and wore many hats over 22 years. She was a Global Performance Manager and worked in India which helped develop her love of culture and international travel. As a Business Development Manager, she received the CEO Sales award in recognition of her skills in negotiation and relationship management.
Patricia volunteered for Iskashitaa at a food preservation event 4 years ago. Through a series of serendipitous events Patricia met Barbara Eiswerth at a farmer’s market while helping a Syrian family and there was an instant bond based on common interests.
One of Patricia’s favorite pastimes is gardening, which began when she was 5 years old and realized a pinto bean was a seed and planted it. Since then her love of gardening has not waned, and she continues to plant seeds that now grow plants and ideas. Her passion for gardening, community, and visibility to Tucson as a Realtor make her a great fit for Iskashitaa Refugee Network. We welcome her experience in the role as the Community Outreach Coordinator.
Ahmad Ismail originally from Egypt, is a PhD student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona. He also teaches Arabic at the Middle Eastern and North African Studies department at the UofA. Before coming to the US, Ahmad taught in Egypt and the Netherlands. He is fluent in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian, and knows some Dutch, Hebrew, and Japanese. Outside of academia, he likes playing the piano, practicing Arabic calligraphy, and volunteering at Iskashitaa.
Ahmad first discovered Iskashitaa a year ago through watching a presentation at the UofA by an Iskashitaa staff member. Since then, his involvement in the organization has grown steadily. In particular, he likes how
Iskashitaa combines environmental action with refugee work.
Robbie Dick was born in the Roaring Twenties in Ely, Nevada, a mining town in the northeastern Nevada high desert. She earned a degree in chemistry with a minor in math from Occidental College and worked as a chemist for a while. Then Robbie discovered she could work as a waitress and travel! So she did! First to National Parks all over and then to South America on a steamer. After marrying and having kids she and her family travelled to camp in Mexico and Europe. She has always contributed to the social activism of the Methodist Church most significantly, she and her husband were very active in the Citizen Diplomacy work at St. Francis. This involved fifteen trips to the Soviet Union to encourage dialog in an attempt to end the cold war. They have visited over twenty countries on several continents since 1995. In her lifetime of travel Robbie found that people may look different, eat different foods, and speak different languages, but are all basically the same wonderful human beings. That is why she feels passionate about Iskashitaa’s important effort, to interact with refugees and learn from them, as they learn from us. And she feels she has lived through too many wars. She wisely believes that if we get to know each other, we have a better chance for peace.
Roberta Elliott is an activist, journalist and photographer. Since retiring three years ago from a lifetime of professional work in the Jewish community - the majority of which was at HIAS, the Jewish refugee agency - she has devoted herself to volunteer work, primarily with refugees both here and abroad. She is madly in love with Tucson, where she is a full-time winter resident and comes as frequently as possible throughout the year. In NJ, where she spends the rest of the year, she is the lead on the welcome team for a family of refugees that arrived from Syria in May. She is particularly pleased to be on the board of Iskashitaa, because she thinks it’s merging of food justice and refugee work is a brilliant business model.
Joan Hall is a Tucson resident of eight years. She is a microfinance consultant and has worked all over the world. She served on nonprofit boards since 2010, including her neighborhood association board. She joined the Iskashitaa board in 2014. She is committed to improving the lives of the refugees with whom Iskashitaa works, and to making Iskashitaa a more sustainable organization with greater outreach so as to benefit more refugees.
Norm Weber was born in St. Louis Mo., attended Elmhurst College then the University of Missouri to receive his M.D. He then earned Master’s in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Norm served in the U.S. Army in the late 1960s, and helped start one of the first Pediatric Nurse Practitioner programs. He served in private practice in Tucson, AZ and Olympia, Washington until his retirement in the 1990s. Norm is married, has nine grandchildren and is a member of St. Francis in the Foothills, UMC. He has served on other Boards, including Tucson Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and the Interfaith Coalition for Homeless and Childbirth Education. He is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is pleased and honored to serve on the Iskashitaa Board as Iskashitaa’s mission coincides with his life’s work.
Sara Nabi, born in Afghanistan, fled to Pakistan with her mother and 7 siblings. She has lived in Tucson Arizona for 16 years, finished High School and started college. In 2005 she and her family met Barbara as they lived among a sea of Somali Bantu families. Her and her siblings were always eager to help, take swim lessons or assist with food redistribution. Sara, her mother, and her siblings are wonderful cooks and love to help welcome refugee families with gleaned fruit and produce as well as all kinds of donations. She is a young leader in her own community and eager to gain leadership skills on the Board of Directors.
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